This is a truly special book which completely immersed me in the folklore of Baba Yaga and the magical quality of the story-telling, so much so that I read it in one rainy day sitting.
Marinka lives with her Grandmother, Baba Yaga, in the most amazing house, with a personality of its own, and chicken legs which can travel quickly from place to place. Baba Yaga facilitates the dead ‘through The Gate’ so that they can ‘return to the stars’. I really liked how the dead people’s lives were celebrated and memories relived before passing through The Gate. Baba Yaga is kind, generous and clearly has a deep respect for her important role which is certainly not without its sacrifices. What is also apparent is that she has a deep love for Marinka who she hopes will become the next Yaga.
However, this is the last thing Marinka wants. She is determined to choose her own path, and it involves the living, not the dead. Desperate for friendship with the living, she is very excited to meet Benjamin who proves that real friendship and genuine acceptance of others can transcend any barrier put in its way, even that of a house getting up and moving away on its chicken legs!
Marinka’s desperation to have a friend leads to her making a decision that will have a profound impact on her life, a decision which also leads to some breath-taking revelations. This story is magnificently crafted, from the deeply engaging plot, with gripping action, to the magical quality of the writing, to the bringing to life of characters who I became really emotionally invested in.
I wanted to be something I’m not.
Marinka is just the most wonderfully brave and fallible young girl with an inner strength that I marvelled at: I absolutely adored her, all the more so because she is not perfect. She is a whirlpool of so many emotions that tumble from her tumultuous heart. She has the tenacity to reach for her own destiny; she is full of anger, defiance and frustration at the life she is expected to lead; yet, above all, she is a young girl on a journey of self-discovery whose triumph is in finding her place in the world, despite her struggles and hardships, surrounded by others who care for her.
This is a perfect story for anyone interested in Slavic folklore, or just a brilliant story, and one which completely entranced me from start to finish. The artwork is stunning from the front cover (by Melissa Castrillon) to the inside illustrations (by Elisa Paganelli) and really enhance the magical quality of this stunning story.